Dehai News The Horn Of Africa States: A Local Solution For The Region – OpEd

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Monday, 15 January 2024


The Horn of Africa States is one of the most fragile states in Africa and, indeed, the world. They four SEED countries represent four of the poorest countries in the continent as well as four of the most conflicted. The region is continually involved in some kind of turmoil based on clan/tribe competition for power and/or climate related factors but fragile, the region, is truly one. Intra-state fragilities and resulting poverty was the main culprit recently but inter-state conflicts, which seemed to have been closed in 2018, with the peace that was signed between Eritrea and Ethiopia, appears to be raising its head again.

This time, it is between Somalia and Ethiopia. The Eritrean/Djibouti border dispute remains standing and the region’s location, one of the most strategic in Africa and the world, is also once again flaring up as a result of the Palestinian-Israeli war, which can only be described as genocidal. The Yemenis on the other side of the Bab El Mandab, the Gate of Tears and Lamentations, are showing up supporting their brethren in Palestine as NATO and allies support Israel. The poor Horn Africans are paying for all those troubles happening beyond the region and adding theirs in the region.

The Horn of Africa States region is generally marked by lack of transparency and accountability that should have contributed to better governance, where national dialogues and reconciliation efforts in most of the countries of the region are denied by the rulers of the region and more specifically in Somalia and Ethiopia, where instabilities generally arise from lack of equitable sharing of power. It is often marked by an attitude  that can only be described as “It is my turn.” Civil societies and active participants in the constitution of a more equitable infrastructure are denied by the governing groups and to turn the eyes of the populations from their wrongdoings, they always turn the attention to ghost enemies on the other side, the neighboring country.

Such is what is going on in Ethiopia today, which has failed its general population after being accepted with open arms in 2018. It must then turn on the neighbor, Somalia, which is a fragile nation in a continuing civil war for over three decades. Trespassing on Somalia’s territorial integrity could not have come at the worst moment for the Ethiopian regime. It only galvanized the Somali population which were looking for a reason to call on each other in the art of survival, and they are sixty million strong across the globe, never mind the fake statistics given of their true numbers.

The new flare up of inter-state conflict in the region provides sufficient space and opportunities for the foreigner to continue in interfering in the region’s affairs and more specifically, the traditionally poor West Asian countries  who, with their newly found wealth, have found a region where they can demonstrate and throw around their weights – the Horn of Africa, wrongly assuming that development of ports in that region would adversely impact the continuing and uninterrupted development of their own.

Those West Asian countries are engaged in their own survival activities which among others include helping create a new corridor – the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor, which is designed to bypass the Suez Canal through a sea passageway from India to the Gulf, across the Middle East by rail and then by sea to Europe. The leaders of India, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Germany, France and, of course the United States signed a Memorandum of Understanding in the last G20 Summit in India in September 2023, committing themselves towards the development of the new corridor. The new corridor, if and when it takes off the ground, is expected to usher in a new development impetus that would link Asia and Europe. 

The other main effort of the West Asian countries to assure of themselves of the continuing development of their ports is also related to the stunting of the development of ports in the Horn of Africa or at least control and calibrate their development to levels that would not do harm to the West Asian ports on the Persian Gulf. The West Asian countries know the littoral states of the Horn of Africa and realize that they cannot, in the long run, control the development of those ports and they, therefore have enticed poor Ethiopia which does not have access to a sea to take over a port in fragile Somalia with their help, wrongly assuming that they would be able to control Ethiopia. This has given rise to an uproar among the Somali population across the globe to resist this infringement on their lands and seas. 

This has given rise to a new inter-state conflict, which is currently brewing and where Ethiopia would in the end be the loser. Somalia is already in a fragile situation and can only hope to regain its historical strength appealing to its population while Ethiopia may break up and shatter much like a fallen glass. The Amhara, the Tigray, the Benishangul, the Oromo and now the Somali would all be fighting to protect their turfs and the rule of law in the country would fly out through the window. Is this what Abiy wants? Unfortunately, yes, indeed. He perhaps believes in superstitions that he would be the great seventh emperor of Ethiopia!

The Horn of Africa States does not need further turmoil. Ethiopia should be wiser than being pushed through greed. It should, on the contrary, work hard towards the development of a more egalitarian, libertarian and more equitable society not only in Ethiopia but also in the region. The four countries of the region can live together and sharing the resources of the region would be a much wiser approach and more equitable. The highland/lowland divide is natural and cannot be changed by force. The region should be making its own choices together and not live by choices made by others from beyond the region. 

The region should reform itself instead of being reformed by others and the buck starts with the leaders who should reform themselves before they reform their institutions. It is a process which is not easy but reforming oneself, the leaders should, if they have to leave their mark on the history pages of the region, and more specifically the Ethiopian administration which should refrain from the wrong moves in which it has engaged itself lately.

We can perhaps take the advice of Joseph Koffigoh, Togo’s former prime minister,  who emphasized that any new organization to be created should aim to contribute to improving the well-being of populations. It is why we have proposed long ago that the Horn of Africa States needs a new platform to address it woes and its wiles and develop the region for the better, instead of being engaged in selfish acts such is being currently carried out in the region.

No one would come to truly help in the development of the region for all non-regional parties have their own interests at heart and not the interests of the region. It is high time that the leaders of the region came to this same conclusion and did something about it. They are indeed the penholders of the region today.


Dr. Suleiman Walhad

   *Dr. Suleiman Walhad writes on the Horn of Africa economies and politics. He can be reached at

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